Thursday: Hili dialogue

April 9, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Thursday, April 9, 2020, and National Chinese Almond Cookie Day—pure cultural appropriation given that the cookie is native to China. It’s also National Winston Churchill Day, but he was neither born nor died on April 9. This date is celebrated because it was on April 9, 1963, that President John F. Kennedy made Churchill an honorary citizen of the U.S. (Churchill was not at the ceremony, but was still alive: he died in 1965.) For those of you in quarantine, be aware that it’s National Gin and Tonic Day.

Further, it’s the Christian holiday of Maundy Thursday. What is “maundy”? Well, it refers to the myth that on the Thursday before Good Friday, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet:

There are two possible sources of the word “maundy.” The main one says it is from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “commandment.” The word was used in a phrase that Jesus spoke while he washed his disciples’ feet. [Note that Jesus didn’t speak Latin!] On Maundy Thursday, mandatum ceremonies take place in the Catholic Church, as part of Mass or separate from it. During them, a bishop usually washes the feet of twelve people from the community, just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Other denominations besides the Catholic Church also participate in the washing of the feet.

The second theory on the name “maundy” says that it derives from “maundsor baskets” or “maundy purses.” The king of England would traditionally give these out to the poor before attending mass on the day. They were named as such because the Latin word “mendicare” means to beg. Some dispute this interpretation as a reasoning for the name of the day.

This evening is also the start of Passover, which will end on April 16 and thus overlap with Easter.

Today’s Google Doodle continues the two-week thank you to coronavirus helpers. Today’s Doodle thanks those who work in sanitation; click on the screenshot to see the links

News of the Day: Dreadful, as usual, but people are beginning to see glimmers of hope. As a pessimist, I want more evidence. In the meantime, the death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. has risen to 14,802 in the U.S. and 88,538 throughout the world. New unemployment figures will be released today, and they will show millions more Americans out of work; this will only grow since just this week Florida and Texas, with 15% of the nation’s payroll, decided to close nonessential businesses. Troubles as numerous as poppy seeds. . .

Stuff that happened on April 9 includes:

  • 1585 – The expedition organised by Sir Walter Raleigh departs England for Roanoke Island (now in North Carolina) to establish the Roanoke Colony.
  • 1784 – The Treaty of Paris, ratified by the United States Congress on January 14, 1784, is ratified by King George III of the Kingdom of Great Britain, ending the American Revolutionary War. Copies of the ratified documents are exchanged on May 12, 1784.
  • 1860 – On his phonautograph machine, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville makes the oldest known recording of an audible human voice.


“The recording was a ten-second snippet of a singer, probably a daughter of the inventor performing the French folk song ‘Au Clair de la Lune’. This phonautograph recording is now the earliest known recording of a human voice and the earliest known recording of music in existence, predating, by twenty-eight years, the longest surviving Edison phonographic recording of a Handel chorus, made in 1888” (Wikipedia article on Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, accessed 04-18-2009).

And I present you that recording as a gift!

This was a scandal to all right-thinking people.

Anderson was refused by the DAR because they were all white and didn’t want a black person integrating Constitution Hall (note the irony of that name). Read more about this infamous event here.

Upon hearing what the DAR did, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the organization and arranged for the Lincoln Memorial concert. Here’s a six-minute PBS report (with scenes) on that concert, its antecedents, and its aftermath, an antecedent to Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the site.

  • 1945 – Execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, anti-Nazi dissident and spy, by the Nazi regime.

If ever I could have a theologian as a hero, it was Bonhoeffer, who opposed and public defied Hitler, and was hanged for it—only two weeks before the Allies liberated the Flossenbürg concentration camp where he was held.  Here’s an 8½-minute documentary about Bonhoeffer’s resistance to Hitler:

  • 1947 – The Journey of Reconciliation, the first interracial Freedom Ride begins through the upper South in violation of Jim Crow laws. The riders wanted enforcement of the United States Supreme Court’s 1946 Irene Morgan decision that banned racial segregation in interstate travel.
  • 1965 – Astrodome opens. First indoor baseball game is played.
  • 1992 – A U.S. Federal Court finds former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega guilty of drug and racketeering charges. He is sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1821 – Charles Baudelaire, French poet and critic (d. 1867)
  • 1872 – Léon Blum, French lawyer and politician, Prime Minister of France (d. 1950)
  • 1898 – Paul Robeson, American singer, actor, and activist (d. 1976)
  • 1925 – Art Kane, American photographer (d. 1995)

Kane specialized in photos of fashion and rock musicians. Here’s one of an uncooperative Bob Dylan, whom he cornered on a Los Angeles rooftop:

Source: Snap Galleries
  • 1926 – Hugh Hefner, American publisher, founded Playboy Enterprises (d. 2017)
  • 1928 – Tom Lehrer, American musician, singer, and mathematician.

Here’s a tweet found by Matthew about Lehrer’s birthday:

  • 1932 – Jim Fowler, American zoologist and television host
  • 1965 – Paulina Porizkova, Czech-born Swedish-American model and actress
  • 1990 – Kristen Stewart, American actress
  • 2000 – Jackie Evancho, American singer

Those who decamped from life on April 9 include:

  • 1553 – François Rabelais, French monk and scholar (b. 1494)
  • 1626 – Francis Bacon, English jurist and politician, Attorney General for England and Wales (b. 1561)
  • 1926 – Zip the Pinhead, American freak show performer (b. 1857)
  • 1945 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian (b. 1906)
  • 1961 – Zog I of Albania (b. 1895)
  • 1976 – Phil Ochs, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1940)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, as Malgorzata explains, “Hili is anxious about the pandemic. There may be shortage of cat food!”

Hili: Flowers do not worry about anything.
A: And you?
Hili: I’m enjoying the spring but there are reasons for anxiety.
In Polish:
Hili: Kwiaty niczym się nie przejmują.
Ja: A ty?
Hili: Cieszę się wiosną, ale są powody do niepokoju.

Via Muffy, a cartoon by Pat Bagley in The Salt Lake Tribune. Title: “Playing Doctor”:

From Cats in Art:

And a social-distancing cat from reader Lawrence:

From Titania. Give me a break: the virus discriminates? No, there are presumably racial differences, based on culture and oppression, that influence susceptibility to infection. I didn’t even realize that people would use the pandemic to leverage identity politics—and at a time when we should be pulling together as humans. If you want to read Hirsch’s article, it’s here.

From Barry. This is certainly dubbed, but it’s still funny. And it’s not a badger!

From Muffy. Capybaras are so phlegmatic, even letting themselves be groomed by mallards:

Two tweets from Heather Hastie via Ann German. First, Twitter needs to fix it’s autocorrect.

What ever happened to Neil Diamond? Well, he’s in lockdown with the rest of us, but still making music. Here, “Sweet Caroline” gets some new lyrics:

Three tweets from Matthew. Spot the frog!

A Queen Meme: Going where no Queen has gone before. There are other versions of her clothes at the link.

This truly is RAD! What are the chances?


36 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

    1. With the exception of China, the countries in the first graph only have a fraction of the population of the USA.

      For example, the UK has a population of approximately one fifth of the USA and if you multiply our figures by five, they look worse than those for the USA.

      1. The U.K. was also late to respond to the pandemic so they will also be very bad. But if you think the U.S. can be considered good compared to many other countries, you are ignoring reality.

          1. I suppose we’re quite a dense country, in terms of population size vs geographical size. Lots of people crammed into a relatively small place.

            We’re also dense in other ways, as recent political developments suggest.

        1. It will also be strongly related to population density as well as population size. We would expect more densely populated countries to suffer worse per capita.

          Similarly it is not surprising that New York is the worst hit place in the US. I’m guessing Montana will probably be relatively OK.

          1. While per capita numbers may be lower in rural areas of the U.S., my guess is that the ability to care for that lower spike, may be lacking due to a lack of hospital beds, proper equipment, and medical providers in rural healthcare systems. I have no numbers on which to base this supposition. Just anecdotal observations here in virginia.

  1. I didn’t even realize that people would use the pandemic to leverage identity politics

    I’m truly surprised that you didn’t.

      1. Hirsch’s take on this may be correct. There may be more to this than just culture, class and healthcare disparities. This article “Breadth of concomitant immune responses prior to patient recovery: a case report of non-severe COVID-19” in Nature Medicine points out that an early COVID-19 patient in Wuhan had the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
        rs12252-C/C in the gene IFITM3 (which
        encodes interferon-induced transmembrane
        protein 3). The C/C genotype at this loci is associated with the “cytokine storm” and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in influenza caused by the H1N1 and H7N9. The worldwide distribution of the C allele of IFITM3 rs12252 is quite interesting. That allele is more prevalent in East Asian, South Asian, African and American populations as compared to a European population. Take a look at this article “IFITM3: How genetics influence influenza infection demographically” in Biomedical Journal.

        Of course this is just one SNP. There are other pertinent SNP loci associated with aggressive immune responses that need to be examined. I think a GWAS of COV-19 patients with severe and non-sever cases would be quite interesting.

    1. I don’t think pointing out that minorities with poor access to healthcare are suffering disproportionately is leveraging identity politics.

      Even Trump’s surgeon general has observed this.

      I think Andrew Doyle’s observation is way off here. At least for the US.

      1. Andrew Doyle’s observations are frequently way off. I agree that the article itself is a reasonable article; its title is, as is the norm with the Grauniad, idiotic, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the writer. But as usual with Titania imo, the punch doesn’t really land.

      2. While I adore Titania, numerous and complex factors are at play and it is far too facile to reduce the matter to a reductio ad absurdum and breezily dismiss it as identity politics.

        BTW as I write, Letters & Politics on KPFA, hosted by Mitch Jeserich (not a raving leftist ideologue as so many on that station are)is having a discussion on heaven, hell and the plague, i.e. theodicy in re plagues. This is not a faith=based discussion.

        And also as I write, Trump and his apostles are busy making policies to loot every goddamned they can from every government agency, all the while crowing about how perfect everything is. One of the latest (but not the only) is that the govt. is confiscating medical supplies ordered (and I presume paid for) by individual states in order to equitably “reallocate” scarce resources. This after Trump forced them to compete over these scarce resources after declaring that the government wasn’t a “shipping clerk.” Now it wants to be just that but with stolen resources from the very people he demanded compete against one another for.

        1. BUT, but, Trump has BIG BOATS, and they’re white, and they have a red cross on them.

          He sounded like a child describing a fire truck when he said this a couple of weeks ago.

          1. I’m so glad for the Internet so that I can revisit moments like that. The only problem is that there are so many, what’s needed is a real clip show. I await today’s coronavirus press conference with morbid trepidation.

            1. “We had a really good meeting. Lots of great people there. The room was big and had white walls. The table was real big too. And it was made of wood. And when I pushed my race car across it it went ‘vroooom vroooom’!”

    1. Infamously, BBC Radio 4 reporter Charlotte Green completely lost it when originally reporting on the recording of Claire de Lune:

  2. To be fair to Afua Hirsch, she does actually mention class briefly at the start and end of the article. There is a fair bit of the usual identity politics conspiracy theory stuff in there, but its not entirely nonsense.

    Of course infectious diseases have always been very bad news for poor people who can’t afford to avoid crowds etc.

    As pointed out in a recent article about Covid 19 in India, the disease was disproportionately spread by rich people travelling the world and will disproportionately kill poor people who can’t afford to self-isolate.

    1. The Guardian has a baffling habit of titling relatively reasonable articles in the most cretinous ways imaginable.

      1. I spent far too much time on it. That’s what quarantine will do to you.

        It does not look like PCC is going to do a reveal, so right edge about a third up from the bottom.

  3. Apropos Maundy Thursday, it was the tradition in medieval times for the king or queen of England to wash the feet of the poor, in imitation of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. These days, the reigning monarch gives small purses containing specially-minted “Maundy Money” to pensioners, one man and one woman for each year of the monarch’s reign.

    As to the etymology, I’d always understood that it derived from the Latin “mandamus”, meaning a command.

    1. I guess Maundy Thursday is still fairly well-known outside churches, thanks to the traditions you highlight.

      What I didn’t know, until a Catholic bishop mentioned it on ‘Thought for the Day’, is that yesterday was ‘Spy Wednesday’: , supposedly the day on which Judas Iscariot did his treacherous deed.

      My immediate reaction was that without the fable of Judas there would have been no corresponding fables of JC’s arrest and trial, no crucifixion, no resurrection, and no story. Really, the RCC ought to have made Judas a saint by now, if only out of gratitude.

  4. The latest unemployment figures are out: 6.6 million people filed for benefits last week; 17 million in total for the last four weeks. The unemployment rate is now 12% to 13%, the worst since the Great Depression. The rate will probably go up more over the next few weeks. In about a month the world has gone from never been greater to catastrophe, possibly never returning to the pre-pandemic standards. Perhaps these events should not be surprising. All great civilizations have retreated from their hegemony or, at best, shrunk dramatically from their previous greatness. It is never a question of if, but of when. The “when” may have arrived for the United States and many other nations. Certainly, the rise to power of inept demagogues have contributed to this situation.

    1. Absolutely. The United States is done as a super anything unless bankrupt counts. When you can’t even make enough medical supplies to get through a medical emergency you are on the way out. California is importing most of their needs from China as we speak. I wonder how long before the currency of China becomes the world currency.

  5. Hili: I’m enjoying the spring but there are reasons for anxiety.

    That matches my state of mind.

  6. “Maundy” – adj.from Old Aramaic. example – “Geez Judas, boy your feet are maundy. Haven’t any of you guys ever heard of soap?”

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